The cost to allow corporate farming in North Dakota is too high
Residents overwhelmingly rejected it in 2016.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s myopic vision for North Dakota is to be more like its neighbors in adopting exploitative corporate farming practices. What Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa lawmakers have done is make it legal to externalize the costs of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to the state residents. Those costs are not just subsidizing tax exemptions for profitable businesses or roads but also harm to the air we breathe and our waterways.
CAFO operations release ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane and particulate material into the air which exacerbates asthma and other breathing problems. Manure from CAFOs can lead to E. coli and nitrate pollution in drinking water sources. Nitrates are known by most as the pollutant that leads to blue baby syndrome but nitrate exposure also increases the risk for colon, kidney, ovarian and bladder cancer. Manure runoff leads to algal blooms and dead zones in waterways that kill fish and all aquatic life.
What Burgum really fails to point out in his article in support of HB 1371 is that North Dakota agriculture ranks 1st in the USA in the production of edible pinto beans, canola, flaxseed, honey, rye, sunflower, wheat, 2nd in the production of raw edible black, navy, pink and small red beans, lentils and peas and 3rd in barley and sugar beets.
What North Dakota has is a unique growing environment for cool-weather crops.
What North Dakota lacks is processing capacity for the raw commodities. We ship water and opportunity out of state via rail every harvest.
CAFOs are not innovative. North Dakota overwhelmingly rejected “corporate farming” in 2016. The reality is that there is ample opportunity for animal agriculture in North Dakota, but only if it turns a profit. Without the capital for slaughtering and processing facilities in the state, the transportation costs from a CAFO in North Dakota to Sioux Falls or the like would eat up profits.
We should be developing and supporting policies that incentivize real carbon sequestration with sustainable farming practices, that look for innovative ways to lower input costs for our growers. We should develop low-impact and low-utility value-added processing and markets for the millions of pounds and bushels of beans, wheat, oil seeds and other small grains.
In Burgum’s desperation to be relevant, to leave an imprint and to encourage corporate greed, he has failed to see the value in replicating what Minnesota’s governor is doing. Gov. Tim Walz wants his state to be the best one for children to thrive because if children are thriving, we all are.
Burgum and the Legislature need to put culture wars and corporate interests to the side and address the real problems in the state with real solutions.